MY LITERATURE LOG by Matteo Basso

Dear readers, I'm glad to be your English literature teacher for a while and I hope you will enjoy my log! I started studying this wonderful subject 2 years ago and I was immediately impressed by the way it can express feelings and thoughts. I must be honest, at first I was a little bit scared about studying English literature because I thought it was too difficult and boring, but once I started understand what it is about I was amazed. So don't worry if you feel like that, keep calm and you will see you really enjoy this subject as I do now.

MARY SHELLEY: FRANKENSTEIN

Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

This year the first author analyzed was Mary Shelley. She was the daughter of a pioneer feminist and a radical thinker. After Mary's birth, her mother died and when she grew up, she went everyday to her mum's tomb to speak about her problems and feelings because she didn't have anyone and didn't get on well with her stepmother. The most important novel by this author is "Frankenstein, or the modern prometheus" and it is about a doctor, Victor Frankenstein, who manages to create a human being by joining parts selected from corpses. The result of the experiment is ugly and revolting: the monster is abandoned by the doctor and becomes a murderer. In the end he even destroys both physically and psychologically his creator, his dad. This novel anticipates what science will do in the following years and it is the onset of science fiction. Personally I found this novel extremely worthfwhile reading because I made many reflections upon life and trust me, that's beautiful.

The Creature

We all have a part of us which is like the monster and that we don't show to anyone. It is the deepest part of our soul which sometimes is unknown even to us and if we know that, we try in every way to hide it. We all think we are ugly and we are not accepted by the people, but most of us can't understand we must accept ourselves instead of giving importance to what the others thinks about you. "Be yourself" must be the slogan for all of us because we have to break up the stereotypes of society. We can't depend on what other people think of us: we are all great as we are, in all of our characteristics. Why must society be the judge of our own lives? Why did people discriminate the monster only for his physical aspect? We all have special gifts we must find out and then use them in the right way. If we understand this point of viewing things and people, we can definitely live better with ourselves and with others. Unfortunately we are too busy of appearing in the social media and due to this we can't be ready immediately to live better, but hey we have 1000 likes on your latest photo on Instagram and that's extremely the best thing.

loneliness

Another feature the creature has, is that he is alone. As we are. How many times we felt lonely? Rejected by the world? How many times are we in our bedroom reflecting about something we made? Personally I spend lots of time doing this because I found it as worthwhile as speaking to a person. Of course I say everything the comes out from my mind to my girlfriend because she is the only one that understands me, but when I'm alone is different. I listen to music and I start wondering and thinking. My mind takes flight and comes back the following morning (these moments of loneliness are mostly in the evening). Most of people may think who spends much time alone is depressed or something like that, but it is not uncommon to be alone for a while. I'm always smiling because I enjoying staying with my friends, but periodically in the evening I have to be alone and chill out. That's normal, so don't worry of spending some time alone because it can help you.

JOHN MILTON: SATAN'S SPEECH

John Milton (1608-1674)

John Milton was a victim of censorship and a member of the revolutionary government. He struggled in defense of liberty and despised all forms of tyranny. His republican writings were condemned to be burnt as soon as the monarchy came back in 1660 and then he was sent to prison. This experience was recreated in his masterpiece "Paradise Lost". Excuse me for this boring introduction to the author, but I think it is important to bare in mind. What is about the poem by Milton? "Paradise Lost" is about the biblical story of Adam and Eve, with God and Satan, who is thrown out of Heaven and later tries to corrupt humankind. Satan, the most beautiful of the angels, is hurled into Hell with his stunned followers as a consequence of his defeat in the war in Heaven. The most important and interesting passage of the poem (and also the only one we analyzed) is "Satan's speech" which is about Satan's arrival in his new kingdom, Hell. It is linked to "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley because in both poems there is the concept of inferiority: why am I inferior to God (Satan's speech) or to the doctor (Frankenstein) if I'm his creature?

"Satan's speech" impressed me for the power of expressing feelings of the protagonist, Satan: while reading it, I can feel the anger and the sense of revenge that are typical of Lucifer. However what I liked most of this poem is the power of speech by Satan at the angels who are ended up in Hell with him. In this passage we see that he persuades them and this reveal the role of Satan: he is a leader, not a boss. What is the difference?

No other words needed

The role of the leader is highly delicate because if something doesn't work, you must put your face to resolve the problem even if you are busy with other tasks. Then if you fail it's your own fault, but if you win, the whole team wins. Being a leader is much more difficult than being a boss, but Satan seems not to care about this and in fact he accepts to lose the benefits in heaven to end up in Hell.

Personally I think I'm not enough strong to be a leader, but it doesn't mean I will be a boss. I despise this category of people who oblige you to do something without saying anything and if you ask these people to do the task, they won't be able because they only can speak and give orders, but not do. In every different situation I try my best to help the others, but sometimes it is too difficult or I can't reach what I want. It depends from situation to situation, but in general I can see I'm not a leader, even if my character brings me to be like that.

Features of a good leader

Another theme I really liked of "Satan's speech" is the power of mind, especially when Satan says "The mind is its own place, and in itself / Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heaven". Through these two verses we can see how much the mind is strong: with it we can transform a Heaven in Hell and viceversa. The mind is the best tool to travel around the world and even more: there are no borders, you can travel even to the moon or to the universe. Through imagination we can build our own world made by what we really like most and it allows to pull the plug whenever you want and in the way you prefer.

Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)

Daniel Defoe was born in a family of Dissenters, which was a Protestant sect that refused the authority of the Church of England. He wrote in Whig papers, but he becomes famous and well-paid when he starts to write political essays and pamphlets.

The Queen didn't like his critical attitude and had him arrested, tried and imprisoned. The real Defoe's success came when he started to write novels and especially when was released his first novel: Robinson Crusoe.

It is based on the real experience of Alexander Selkirk, a seaman who shipwrecked on a desert island in the Pacific Ocean. The author took also inspiration by some travel books that were successful at the time. The novel consists in three separate sections: the first is about Robinson leaving his family to make fortune in the sea and the shipwreck; the second is in the form of the diary in which Robinson tells us his experience on the island; the third is about the return to England, where he gets to know that is plantation in Brazil made him rich.

In this novel there are the themes of spiritual as God, providence and sin, of individual and society. In fact in the novel we can fin many references to what I mentioned before and also to salvation and it can be read as a spiritual autobiography because the hero reads the Bible to find comfort and guidance and experiences the conflict between good and evil. There is also the theme of individual and society and their relationship: the society created on the island is an exaltation of 18th century England and its deal of mobility, material productiveness and individualism; on the other hand we see that the protagonist, although God's will, can shape his destiny through his action.

Robinson Crusoe and Friday

The passage I liked most and that made me reflect more is when the protagonist, Robinson Crusoe, meets Friday. In the excerpt, Defoe describes the native, rescued by Robinson from a group of cannibals performing their rites. He also makes a comparison between white and black people and we understand through the lines that there is a sense of superiority of the white race to the black one. An example is when the slave lays to Robinson's feet in a act of submission and then when the protagonist doesn't even ask for the name of the black man, but says "his name should be Friday".

Do you find it something strange or something that everyday happens? Unfortunately I find it very normal: racism is something that exist for so long, but in the 21th century is a everyday-problem. There are too many racist people and what does that mean? We live in a world of ignorance. The image above is perfect because it tells what racism does: it makes you blind and so you can't see how wonderful all the human being are. Yes, human not white, black, yellow, red... because we are all equal, all human and not different each other for the color of the skin. By the way, I find spectacular this verse of the song "Suddenly" by Asap Rocky (an American rapper) and it is: "You my brother, you my kin, f*ck the color of your skin". Here is the song if you want to listen to it.

Racism affects everyone and it will be worse and worse if we don't fight it. But how can we erase this problem? With education: it will be no more ignorance with education and so no racism. It is impossible that in 2017 racism still exist: we are progressing in all the technologies, but we are regressing in our soul. For the sake of humanity, humans must wake up!

jonathan swift: gulliver's travel

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Jonathan Swift was born and educated in Dublin, but his family was English. He left Ireland for England where he started to work at his first satirical novels by Sir William Temple. He returned back to Ireland and in Dublin was made Dean of St Patrick's Cathedral. His masterpiece is called "Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World", known as "Gulliver's Travels" and I will deal with this poem because I find it more interesting, even if we analyzed also some passage from "A Modest Proposal" and I liked it. In "A Modest Proposal" Swift suggested that the poverty of the Irish people should be relieved by the sale of their children as food for the rich, using irony and bitterness.

Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal

Swift was a controversial and a great writer. He was conservative, an illuminist and concerned with politics and society. The author found in irony and satire the means that suited his temperament and his interests: attacking and criticizing politic is dangerous and so he uses satire.

"Gulliver's Travels" consists in four books, each dealing with the various adventures of the ship's surgeon, Lemuel Gulliver, and illustrated by maps of the places he visited. In the Book 1 Gulliver sails and shipwrecked upon the shore of "Lilliput", whose inhabitants, the "Lilliputians", are only six inches tall. Despite of everything, he returns back to England. In Book 2 the protagonist sails for India, but finds him in a place were the native are giants. After several misadventures caused by his size, he is rescued by a ship and returns to England. In Book 3 Gulliver's ship is attacked by pirates and finds himself on the flying island "Laputa", whose inhabitants are absent-minded astronomers, philosophers and scientist who carry out many experiments. He manages to come back to England. In Book 4 he goes to an island populated by "Houyhnhnms", rational horses that rule over the "Yahoos", a vile species of animal resembling human beings. He was banished by the horses and returns to England where he can't stand the smell of his wife and children, so he goes to the stable Among the animals that remind him of the nobility of the Houyhnhnms.

Swift was a misanthrope for human being and this concept is reflected in the poem "Gulliver's Travels". He didn't share the pride of England: they thought they were the best for them hegemony of seas. It is true that England had a great fleet and they established it colonizing the America, Africa and India. Swift hated this kind of human being who thinks to be superior and, as I said before, this issue is reflected in the poem: in fact here we can find description of the bad aspects of human

Colonization of America

I'm in tune with Swift and his hate for this shape of human being: I definitely can't stand who thinks is the best. That's ridiculous! There are milliards of people in the world and there is someone who thinks he is the best of this huge number of people? Seriously? It is absurd. I think one flaw of human being is exactly to be very presumptuous: instead we must be humble! This flaw causes many problems and one of them is one we have already dealt: racism.

Swift dealt with the contradiction of the church, however not in "Gulliver's Travels", but in "A Modest Proposal".

The author attacked the church because of the contradiction he found and express in this poem: parishes and all the religious men have many food while the poor people any. Is it right that the church who preaches helping each other is the first institution not to do this and be mean to the poor? This is inconceivable and unfortunately after many years it is still the same. This is one reason of my atheism: I can't possibly believe in a religious God represented by this type of Church.

William wordswoth: lyrical ballads and daffodils

William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

William Wordsworth was born in the English Lake District. He had an enthusiasm for democratic ideals which he hoped could lead to a new social order. During the years of the Revolution there was despair and disillusionment, healed by the contact with nature. He went to live with his sister, Dorothy, who constantly supported his poetry and remained his most faithful friend.

The friendship with Samuel Taylor Coleridge proved crucial tooth development of English Romantic Poetry. They produced a collections of poems, called "Lyrical Ballads". There was a second edition which contained Wordsworth's famous "Preface", "The Manifesto of English Romanticism".

Nature plays an important role for Wordsworth's poetry: in fact one of the most consistent concepts in the author's works is the idea that man and nature are inseparable, the same whole. The process used by Wordsworth takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity so that we read in the poem the results of an active relationship between present and past experience: it is called "Recollection in Tranquillity". For the author the poet has a specific task: he has to become a teacher. He has a great sensibility and the power of imagination enables him to communicate his knowledge, so that he can show to men how to understand their feelings. His task so consists in drawing attention to the ordinary things of life

Daffodils, typical of the Lake District

The first poem by Wordsworth we analyzed was "Daffodils" which is about his experience of a walk with his sister Dorothy in the Lake District.

This poem reminds me when I was child, playing in the garden with my best friend or my brother and, I'm honest, the first time I read it, I was a little bit nostalgic because I miss those times and moments when I was more free and light-hearted. It's evident that I love this poem! That's fantastic how the poet makes clear the image of these daffodils and so there is a cinematic effect. Through the words he used we see perfectly how the nature and the man are completely in tune, characteristic of Wordsworth as I said before. He creates a perfect film that opens with a "flashback" because in the first three stanzas tells us his memories and then, in the 4th stanza speaks about the present, when he is writing the poem. This is how a romantic poet works: first you have the moment of pure emotion in contact with nature, but to write a poem you must sit on your couch or somewhere else in quiet and be rational (again, Recollection in Tranquillity)

As I said before, this poem reminds my childhood. I remember when I was running in the park with my friends, enjoying the nature around me. Now unfortunately I'm too busy with school and other hobbies like football and going to the gym. When I have free time, I spend it with my girlfriend or my friend and so enjoying the nature is neglected. That's true when we are child we understand better than we think how the world and life is all about, instead when we grow up we tend to take all the beautiful places and people we have and stay with for granted. I envy the ingenuity of child because they can see the world with different eyes appreciating all the little things, from insects to the sun.

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